“Why, it’s a flying fortress!”
– Richard Williams, reporter for the Seattle Times, upon seeing a B-17 heavy bomber for the first time
With sales of its first 1:72 scale B-17 far outstripping expectations, Air Force 1 drew back the curtain on its next Flying Fortress. Due out this December, the second “G” model is based upon “Nine O Nine”, a heavy bomber that was attached to the 323rd Bomb Squadron, 91st Bomb Group, then deployed to Bassingbourn, England, during 1944.
Indeed, “Nine-O-Nine” was a Boeing B-17G-30-BO Flying Fortress heavy bomber that completed 140 combat missions during World War II, believed to be the Eighth Air Force record for most missions, without loss to the crews that flew it.
The original aircraft, a block 30 B-17G manufactured by Boeing, was nicknamed after the last three digits of her serial number: 42-31909. “Nine-O-Nine” was added to the USAAF inventory on December 15th, 1943, and flown overseas on February 5th, 1944. After depot modifications, she was delivered to the 91st BG at RAF Bassingbourn, England, on February 24th, 1944, as a replacement aircraft, one of the last B-17s received in factory-applied camouflage paint.
A former navigator of the 91st BG, Marion Havelaar, reported in his history of the group that “Nine-O-Nine” completed either 126 or 132 consecutive missions without aborting for mechanical reasons, also believed to be a record. M/Sgt. Rollin L. Davis, maintenance line chief of the bomber, received the Bronze Star for his role in achieving the record.
Her first bombing raid was on Augsburg, Germany, on February 25th, 1944. She made 18 bombing raids on Berlin. In all, she flew 1,129 hours and dropped 562,000 pounds of bombs. She had 21 engine changes, four wing panel changes, 15 main gas tank changes, and 18 changes of Tokyo tanks (long-range fuel tanks).
After the hostilities ceased in Europe, “Nine-O-Nine” was returned to the United States on June 8th, 1945, and was consigned to the RFC facility at Kingman, Arizona on December 7th, 1945, and eventually scrapped.